EXONS, INTRONS, AND TALKING GENES

THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE HUMAN GENOME PROJECT

Wills (Biology/Univ. of Cal. at San Diego) serves up a full platter in this insider's view of biology's ``Big Science'' project. While the subtitle suggests that his aim is to educate the reader about the science, he has a lot to say about the politics and personalities as well. The text begins with a vision of the brave new world ahead with its myriad genetic manipulations and therapies and their sociopolitical implications. Then it's on to the origins of the Human Genome Project. Wills credits Nobelist Renato Dulbecco with having proposed the concept. What got a reluctant biomedical community on board was a concatenation of events: News that the Department of Energy was moving full steam ahead on technology for DNA sequencing; Congressional prodding; conversion of a few key players; and appointment of James D. Watson himself to lead the effort for the National Institutes of Health. Wills does a fine job of putting the reader in the technological picture, including a marvelous tour ``through the genome with gun and camera'' in which even savvy readers may be startled to find how rapidly DNA is copied, moved to the cell body, and processed into proteins. Major milestones such as the discovery of the genes for muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis are described in detail, with no sparing of the inside dope on who did what to whom in the race to be first. In contrast to other recent historians of genome research, Wills makes it clear that all that so-called junk DNA between the ``exons'' that are the ``real'' genes may not be junk after all; indeed, the message is that nothing is as simple as it seemed at first. Final chapters deal with the challenges posed by cancer, schizophrenia, and the implications of finding genes related to talents/behavior/intelligence. Here, Wills can be faulted for too- summary a treatment of complex issues. Overall, though, a first- rate exposition by someone who must be a super teacher.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 1991

ISBN: 0-465-02168-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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